Traces : marks and imprints left by the whirlwind passage of coronavirus through the Iris Sud Hospitals in Brussels in the spring of 2020.
Traces that deserve to be preserved so that nothing will be forgotten of the courage and the abnegation, the dread and the professionalism of the nurses, doctors, ancillary healthcare workers and logistical teams who faced something that had never been seen before.
To gather their stories, an astute team was put in place: Deborah Cordier, Children’s Psychologist, Delphine Jarosinski, Head of Communication for Iris Sud Hospitals and Chiara Moncada, Advisor in prevention (psychosocial aspects) and co-founder of PEPS (Psychological & Psychosocial Support Unit). All three understood that the men and women who received the applause every evening during the first lockdown without knowing what to do with it, deserved to come out of the shadows of the group labelled “our heroes” and exist in a more individual way.
They contacted two artists, Caroline Lamarche and Gaël Turine. Gaël set up an improvised studio on the hospital sites, in which 145 people in turn took their place. What was said and what happened there will remain a secret between the photographer and those who turned up to the studio. The studio was a place apart, a sort of confined space within the lockdown, a bubble in which a ritual was accomplished that had nothing in common with the usual therapeutic actions. At first there were a few words, the time for introductions, then each one could say – or not say – whatever was on their mind, dare to share a confidence, admit what was usually repressed. Finally the light went out in this space in which thoughts and souvenirs were floating, while Gaël Turine began to take photographs, in silence. His photos bear witness to this crossing. They tell us, in a deeply moving way, that at the heart of our efficient medical systems, behind all the technical gestures, the machines, the protocols and the chemistry, there are women and men whose faces forget nothing of what they experience.
Caroline had a question circulate around the hospital: “What do you want to say (or write) that only you can say (or write) about the period that you just lived through?” She received texts of varying length, some short and sharp, others looser, sometimes fiery, or simply factual – that were no less moving. She also transcribed some recorded accounts, and then read and reread this impressive harvest. Because writers are readers first. They have the very delicate science of knowing, among all the sentences, how to recognise the ones that in a just and fleeting manner can scale the heights of reality. She pinned those passages, careful to preserve the context or enlighten it with the next extract, the next word. She talks about this work as that of a compiler who changes nothing in the words, but who, by putting together the nuggets that remained in her sieve, led to a series of powerful and significant fragments.
Lifting a corner of the veil, the traces gathered together here are a plea for a new kind of attention, caring for the world, caring for others, that alone can be worthy of the sacrifices accepted.
(Text by Pascal Chabot, Philosopher)